Sunday, 28 June 2015

Review - Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

As soon as I heard about Finding Audrey I just knew that I was going to have to read it. Whilst this may have been the first YA novel to be written and published by Sophie Kinsella the author has published many other books including the famous, and incredibly popular, Shopaholic series which, incidentally, I absolutely love. Like many of her previous novels, Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey did not disappoint me in the slightest. 

Finding Audrey is about a 14 year old girl called Audrey who suffers from Social Anxiety Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Depressive Episodes, many if not all of which were triggered following a traumatic bullying incident that Audrey went through whilst she was at school. Audrey is currently being home-schooled and also attends regular sessions with her therapist, Dr. Sarah, in the hope that Audrey will be ready to start at a new secondary school in the new academic year. 

Apart from attending her therapy sessions Audrey does not leave the house in which she lives with her parents and two brothers. Despite spending her time at home with her family she never takes off her sunglasses which prevent her from having to make eye contact with anyone else. One day her brother’s friend Linus makes an appearance and, whilst at first, Audrey is extremely wary and fearful of him we soon see her learn to trust him and with his help, support and encouragement we slowly but surely see Audrey start to overcome her anxiety. 

What I particularly liked about this book was the way that Sophie Kinsella’s writing style that is present in all of her other novels really shone through.It was light-hearted and full of humour, something which is quite rare to see in novels that deal with the subject of mental health. However, despite being written in such a way, Sophie Kinsella really got to the heart of the issue and, I thought, gave the reader a very real insight into exactly what it feels like to live with anxiety. 

The novel also conveyed an incredibly important message and one that I feel many people who suffer from anxiety can both feel encouraged by and take hope from - that, although there will be ups and there will be downs and it is not something that will happen overnight, recovery is possible. That is to say that, although it may not necessarily seem like it at the time, things won’t always stay the way that they are forever - things can and do get better. 

In seeing Audrey get better the reader also gains an understanding of how important it is for those living with anxiety to be surrounded by people who take the time to understand their condition, stick by them and take the time to listen to their worries and concerns. Audrey was incredibly lucky in this respect to have so many supportive individuals in her life. Indeed, I strongly believe that it is vital for those suffering with anxiety to reach out and talk to others about how they are feeling, no matter how hard it seems. Be it a family member, friend or healthcare professional there will be someone out there who can and will help. 

In closing I feel that this book is one that all teenagers can hugely benefit from reading due to the very important messages it contains. It was brilliant, beautiful and heart-warming and one that I would not hesitate to recommend. 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Review - Return to Bluebell Hill by Rebecca Pugh

Return to Bluebell Hill was one of those books that, as soon as I found out about it, I could not wait to be released. Therefore, it was no surprise that the very first thing I did when I woke up on the day of its release was reach over, pick up my kindle and download it. Return to Bluebell Hill is a debut novel that was written by Rebecca Pugh who some of you may know as Becca’s books - a fellow book blogger who is both hugely successful and popular and whose posts I always find are such a pleasure to read. 

In Return to Bluebell Hill we are introduced to Jessica McAdams as she returns to the village of Bluebell Hill following the death of her parents who, if truth be told, she didn’t have the best of relationships with. Upon returning to Bluebell Hill Jessica is reunited with Esme, a now elderly lady who used to be Jessica’s nanny as she was growing up and one who Jessica has a great deal of time, love and admiration for. During one of many heart to hearts with Esme, Jessica reveals her intention to return to the family home - Bluebell House - and clear it of its contents before, finally, selling it. However, how easy is this going to be for Jessica to do, particularly when both a huge family secret is revealed that completely changes the way she views everything about her life, and the gorgeous Rueben who becomes much more than a friend makes an appearance? 

This was an absolutely stunning novel and one that I know will be the perfect addition to any chick-lit lovers eReader this summer. I honestly could not have loved Return to Bluebell Hill any more than I did and certainly did not want to put my eReader down which I admit became an issue as I ended up having to recharge it about halfway through. 

What I loved most about this particular novel was the way the author had managed to create a character in Jessica who was very down to earth and likeable. I also really loved the way that the presence of Rueben, who was the only male character in the book, never felt awkward. Having previously known Esme, he slotted so seamlessly into the storyline and became incredibly supportive of Jessica and all that she wanted to do. 

Rebecca’s writing never faltered once as it drew the reader in from the start and described everything in plenty of detail, so much so that I often found myself with very vivid images in my head, picturing what I was reading. I find it takes a very good author to have me doing this which just goes to prove even further how wonderful Rebecca’s writing is.

Return to Bluebell Hill is a book that fully deserves all of the praise and five star reviews that it is currently receiving and I hope it goes on to be even more successful than it already has been so far over the coming weeks and months. Whatever Rebecca chooses to write next, I for one will certainly be reading it. This really is an author that has such a bright future ahead of her.

Review - Tremor by Ryan Mark

Despite really enjoying dystopian fiction I hadn’t read any of this genre in a very long time until I read Tremor by Ryan Mark, a truly fantastic novel that had me hooked from beginning to end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and all I can say is that I hope this review does it the justice that it so very much deserves. 

In this book we meet William, a young boy who is struggling to come to terms with the death of his father, a man who by all accounts William very much looked up to and admired. His father died during the Fossil War, one which not only resulted in many deaths but also the elimination of many major governments and cities. Since the war, the earth and its survivors, also experience a number of powerful tremors which, to say the least, are hugely unpleasant and bring with them much disruption and destruction. In the wake of the war, Terrafall now governs the area in which this novel is set and has an army of Peace Enforcers who seem to enjoy nothing more than inflicting violence on the region’s citizens. Furthermore, with this government reigning, a huge number of people are going missing. 

One day William returns home from school and is instantly on alert as nothing is as it should be and someone - his mother - is missing. Thus we see him set out on a mission to find his mother, and whilst at first his only allies are his friend Althea and her little brother Ori we soon see the trio join forces with many others who, like William, want to find out exactly what is happening to all those who disappear.

This was an absolutely incredible book that was jam-packed with many twists and turns throughout it. The author, Ryan Mark, wrote in such a way that I found myself becoming quite attached to the main characters of the book and was really rooting for them, wanting nothing more than for everything to turn out right for them all. 

This is one of those books that I just know will appeal to a wide audience, particularly those who read and enjoyed the Hunger Games, Divergent or Delirium series. 

Having read and enjoyed this book so much, there is absolutely no doubt that I will be reading further books that are released in this series as Tremor is the first of, what I discovered, will become a trilogy. Upon finishing it, I was extremely happy to know that I would be reunited with both the author’s writing and the world he had so carefully and cleverly crafted for us, maybe not immediately but definitely in the future. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Review - We are All Made of Stars by Rowan Coleman

Before reading this absolutely beautiful novel written by the wonderful author that is Rowan Coleman it’s safe to say that I had heard so much about it. Therefore, it was no surprise that when it finally dropped through my letterbox it jumped straight to the top of my TBR pile.

Throughout the duration of the novel we follow the lives of three characters - Stella, Hope and Hugh - who are all linked in so much as they all spend time, as either a worker, patient or visitor, at the Marie Francis Hospice and Rehabilitation Centre. 

Indeed, Stella is one of the night nurses at the centre who is experiencing a number of challenges at home in her marriage to Vincent after he returned from the war in Afghanistan with an injury. During her shifts she sits with her patients and helps them to write letters which, after they have died, she sends to their loved ones. One day she writes a letter for a patient which she feels cannot, and must not, wait until the death of the patient to be delivered to its recipient despite the patient’s wishes. 

Then we have Hope one of the centre’s younger, but by no means youngest patient. With Cystic Fibrosis, Hope has been transferred there from hospital to continue her recovery from an illness. This is a recovery which we are fortunate enough to see her make with the support of not just her family and those who work at the centre but also Ben who has been her best friend from a young age. As the story progresses we see their relationship develop and the pair have many adventures, both good and bad, together.

Finally, there is Hugh who, I think it’s fair to say, has had a life that’s full of ups and downs but who is trying very hard to move onwards and upwards in life. We see him visiting one of the patient’s in the centre, who it turns out he has a very close connection with, after a revelation which leaves him questioning everything he’d previously thought was true. 

I really enjoyed this book. I particularly enjoyed the way that each chapter was dedicated to a different character - either Stella, Hope or Hugh - as I felt it allowed us to connect and feel much closer to each of them than we perhaps would have, had it just been told from the perspective of one of them. The book also included a number of letters that patients had written to their loved ones - some of which were comical and some of which were quite emotional. 

This was one of those books that could quite easily be read in a day or two, I never felt myself getting bored or wishing that it would pick up pace. Rowan’s written a number of other novels and all that’s left to say is that I really hope that this author will continue to write many more for years to come. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Review - The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

In one word I thought that The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson was beautiful. It really got to the heart of its subject matter and was one of those books that went to great lengths to accurately describe the way in which the world or, more precisely, those who live in it can be so cruel towards those who are in any way different. 

The story follows David Piper and Leo Denton who first meet at Eden Park School. It’s safe to say that David has never really fit in and has suffered mercilessly at the hands of school bullies, although he does have two very supportive best friends - Essie and Felix. In fact, as he has difficulties in opening up to his parents, it is, at first, only Essie and Felix who know David’s biggest secret; that he is a girl born inside a boy’s body. 

Then we have Leo who is the new kid in David’s school having left his previous school for reasons which many of his peers at Eden Park School are quick to start spreading false rumours about. One day, not very long at all into his time at his new secondary school, Leo stands up for David when he is being bullied. From this moment on we see an unlikely friendship begin to develop between the two characters who, as the story progresses, share some of their biggest secrets with eachother. 

What’s nice about this particular book is that we get an insight into how both Leo and David are really feeling with the author writing chapter’s from each of their perspectives throughout the novel. Regarding this particular aspect, it was also nice that it was very easy for the reader to recognise whose side of the story they were reading because the author used a different font for each character.

It was one of those books that I could definitely have read in a day, but with a full-time job this wasn’t possible. However, every other moment I got - on my lunchbreaks, in the evenings - this book was in my hands. Indeed, whilst I was reading the novel there was never a point when I felt bored or that the novel was lacking pace. 

The Art of Being Normal is most definitely an incredible d├ębut novel by Lisa Williamson, that so deserves all of the praise it both has received and will continue to receive. I sincerely hope that we will soon see more of Lisa Williamson’s work reach the shelves of local bookstores and, indeed, libraries as I can tell that her writing is not something I will ever tire of reading.